Monday, May 26, 2014

Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 Mile - in photos

Report by Amy

It has taken me several days post-race to figure out what to say about my race, what stories to report, how to explain the 24+ hour adventure I had on the Massanutten trails.  Perhaps the problem is that running gives me clarity by offering me quiet time to organize my thoughts, and in recovering from MMT100 I haven't done much running.  However, I think my inability to relate my story might be because even a week after I finished, I still don't know how to explain my experience or how I feel about it.  In the meantime, I am posting my experience in photos.  Perhaps that's how the mind truly takes in 100-miles worth of experiences, in flashes of memories.

Here are photos from my adventure at the Massanutten Mountain Trail 100.
I was half awake for the 4am start, but it was great to tick off the early miles by headlamp.  As the sun rose, I hoped that I would finish before the next sunrise - an aggressive goal on such a challenging course.
I really enjoyed running the technical trails.  Having to concentrate on every foot fall easily passed the miles and hours out there. (Photo by James Williams)
I enjoyed the less technical trails, as I could stretch out the stride and tick off a few easy miles. It also gave me an opportunity to look up and enjoy the views.  (Photo by Paul Encarnacion)

There were only a few rare spots where we were running in the sun rather than in the shade of trees.  The day stayed relatively cool (high of mid-60s), I kept a t-shirt on for the entire day.  By the time I finished, it was 37 degrees out and I was cold!  (Photo by Rob Dolan)
There was substantial rain leading up to the race - several of the trails turned into rivers.  It kept my feet cool and wet the entire day, and filled my shoes with gravel.  Fortunately, I didn't have any foot issues - my Roclites served me well!  (Photo by James Williams)

The views from the ridges were amazing, as long as I could take my eyes off the trails long enough to enjoy them.  The Massanutten Mountains ridge forms a ring, so you could see across the valley to the ridge that made up most of the course.
The ridge and the valley in the middle was beautiful.  It was intimidating in the early miles to look across the valley and see where I would be running in 30+ miles, but encouraging in the later miles to look across at all the miles I had covered and where I started earlier that day.
My last vista of the day, as the sun set, was at 'Q's view'.  The picture doesn't do it justice, but it was a beautiful sight to see the lights start to come on in the valley as the sun painted the sky.

We saw our share of rocky trails, these are the 'Massanutten Rocks' that the course is famous for.
This climb, in particular, was one of the more brutal climbs of the course.  It was more of a rocky scramble on all-fours to get up.  At mile 80, this was a challenge.  Luckily I conquered this section by headlamp, so I just saw reflectors impossibly high in the sky as I scampered up to the ridge.
Not all the trails were rocky.  There was also plenty of amazing ribbons of single track to stretch out the stride on.

One unique factor was these large ant hills at mile 81.  Luckily, I ran this stretch at night so I didn't see the full magnitude of the 2-3 foot tall ant hills.  But, I did expect that will ant hills this size, that ants the size of dogs would come out and attack me.  I picked up my stride through this section out of fear!
Flowers in bloom peppered the edge of the trails.

I had never seen pink honey suckle before (I thought they were only peach colored!).  I broke off a flower and bit into the end to taste the sweet touch of honey - verifying it was indeed pink honey suckle.

We saw numerous lady slippers along the course.  Since this is an endangered flower, I was delighted every time I saw one (or several).
I enjoyed many sights along the course, including this delicately stacked cairn.
I had the great fortune to be paced by a few local runners.  Robin, last year's MMT100 Champion, ran with me from mile 64 to 78.  She helped me turn around my race and the miles easily ticked off with her company.  It was amazing how fast the time (and miles) went as we gabbed about our weddings, our first periods, past running adventures, and our studly husbands.

Jonathan (in the middle, green pull-over) paced me from mile 78 to the finish - since it was entirely by headlamp, I don't have any photos running with him.  His enthusiasm kept me going as we climbed up the impossibly steep rocky climbs, up a few unstable but gushing streambeds, and down the insanely long last road section.  Luckily, he had a great sense of humor, since I got mighty grumpy in the last 4 miles as my internal odometer ticked over the 100 mile mark and wasn't at the finish line!

I had an amazing crew, 'Rusiecki's Bitches', taking care of me throughout the day.  Luckily, these sweatshirts clearly labeled them so folks knew there were bitches present.
For this race, Meghan (a.k.a. Bitch Two) was my crew.  She somehow juggled crewing for both Brian and I during the race.  She clearly had a bit of fun on her own also.

Steph (a.k.a. Bitch One) wasn't able to make it to MMT to crew.  She was there in spirit, and even surprised me by being there (in cut-out form) at a few aid stations. 
The aid stations and volunteers at MMT had some great humor.  This skeleton is labeled as the '1st drop out' at MMT.  The aid station volunteers were exceptional - at one aid station, while Meghan was helping me refuel, an aid station volunteer offered to spray my legs with bug spray to keep off the ticks.  At another, a volunteer noticed my arms were red and put sunblock on me while I grabbed food.  I have never experience such top-notch aid station service!

Many of the aid stations had themes to add to the enthusiasm of the volunteers.  I certainly didn't expect blow-up animals on an ultra course.

The volunteers also lined the trails entering and exiting the aid stations - at night they glowed and offered extra support after what were often lonely trails.
I finished at around 4:30am on Sunday, just under 24.5 hours after I started.  I was proud of my race - while I was the 4th female in the race, I was the 5th fastest female in the 20-year history of the race, truly a testament to the field strength.  I struggled with stomach issues in the middle miles, but was able to recover well enough to finish strong.  It was an amazing course and incredible adventure!
On Monday morning, 24 hours after finishing, I got the following running inspirational quote sent to me - and it seemed a perfect thought to end my Massanutten journey with.
"Your toughness is made up to equal parts persistence and experience.  You don't so much outrun your opponents as outlast and outsmart them, and the toughest opponent of all is the one inside your head."  -Joe Henderson

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